A few ideas that I think could revolutionize the grocery shopping experience.

Grocery shopping kind of sucks!

Seriously, “who likes to go grocery shopping”? I know I don’t. I try to get in and out as quickly as possible and I almost always buy the same stuff. Sure, the things I buy are not all constants, I allow for variety, specials, bargains, savings and steals but for the most part there are a core segment of items that I buy over and over, every single time.

If you think about it, the entire process has been pretty much unchanged for thousands of years. You walk into some place that has rows of things on shelves. You pick out what you want and then you pay. It’s really not that much different today than it was in the old markets when commerce was invented.

“How can it be, with all the technology that is at our disposal, that the shopping experience has not advanced with the times?”

The other day I was waiting in line at the grocery store for some obscure item I had forgotten the day before, and as I often do, started thinking about ways that grocery stores (or any retail store for that matter) could become more efficient. Here are a few of my thoughts on how to revolutionize the shopping experience.

Why cant I subscribe to individual products?

We already do this with products/apps online. There are a core group of items that I buy on a regular basis that I would prefer to have a subscription service as opposed to buying them on random shopping trips. I am not sure this is something you solve at the retail store or if each product should just be available on a subscription basis through the individual company website, but why is this not a more prevalent option. (Think dollar shave club here) Take something like deodorant for instance. Technology could help me determine my precise usage cycle, to within a day or two, and then just send me a new deodorant and bill my debit card.

I know what you are thinking. Shipping costs would crush your profit, but I disagree. People would eventually end up bundling products and buying multiple items from multiple places and in a perfect world it would be the retail store that was the one solving this problem. You could even imagine a system where you pick up a pre-sorted package, with all of your necessities as you go in to pick up the less predictable items or the things you want to buy fresh.

Everything would be ready for you before you walked into the store, no need to waste time browsing. Imagine the forced loyalty you could create as a store by providing these services to your consumers. Essentially getting them to commit to coming to your store for the stuff they cannot predict or subscribe to. I think it would more than compensate for the loss of income that comes from impulse buys associated with people browsing for a specific item and buying others based purely on positioning.

Why isn’t there a register on my cart?

I don’t actually want to scan each item I put into my cart, but what if the cart did it for me? Better yet, what if we used a technology like RFID tags that automatically registered each item in my cart and displayed the total on the push bar at the front of the cart?

This number would not necessarily need to reflect coupons or all discounts but in a perfect world it could! Eventually this process could eliminate the need for a cashier or the entire check out process. You would just fill your cart, or some of those environmentally friendly bags that are all the rage these days and just walk right out to your car.

The tags and cart register would calculate your charges as you go. I am assuming that at this point, coupons are all digital anyway so they could be applied automatically and then your preferred payment method would be charged for whatever you took home with you.

Oh, by the way, I just eliminated any possibility of shoplifting as a result of efficient thinking. You’re welcome!

Why do I still have to ask someone where the product I want is?

I can see a time in the near future when we will walk into a retail store and use the store’s app, Google maps, or some other mobile interface and be able to navigate to the precise location of any specific item in the store by typing it in or speaking it into my phone.

Augmented reality could provide you with visual references, descriptions, discounts and more information and then overlay it all on your phone display as you interact with the store in real time. I have to imagine this is already in the works because it would be a beautiful way to interrupt your line of sight with more advertisements. I am not saying I approve of this as a marketing method but I know how these people think and you can bet your ass that getting their products in front of your eyes is their only priority.

More importantly, imagine if the app could also connect to the other stores in the area and then show you a price comparison in real time. Think of the transparency and honesty this would force the store to conform too. It could also be used as a trust building tool and another loyalty building interaction with the consumer.

Why is shopping still so boring?

My brain is buzzing with ways to gamify the entire shopping experience. Stores could bridge the real-time and online gap through mobile technology and make the shopping experience a little more interactive. Imagine you walk into a store and scan a recipe and then it tells you where everything is in the store, how much it costs and then offers you a coupon for buying those specific brands.

What if there were shopping lists people could create and share. For example – “Feed a family of four for a week for $100.” People could submit their shopping lists and show off their bargain hunting skills with other people inside of the store or online. Imagine the viral potential if this type of thinking was prolific in retail marketing. Imagine the social traction that could be built by engaging your audience in this manner. By bridging the online experience with real time engagement, and by rewarding the consumers shopping and sharing behavior.

So many companies struggle with how to make their company more social but they forget to think about why things are social to begin with and why people share the things they do online as well as in real life. You cannot just decide to become a social company, or decide to “go viral” you need to build social architecture and build your company brand around a social framework that allows for moments of virality and socially shareable shopping experiences.

But what the hell do I know!

For all I know, all of this stuff is already in the works but I don’t hear enough about it or see much of a shift in general by brick and mortar stores looking for creative ways to retain loyalty and attract new business. You would think these stores would be chomping at the bit to make it easier for people to spend more money with them.

I don’t need to know anything about the inner workings of your industry to tell you how it could be better. I am after all the most important cog in your marketing machine. I am your consumer. I understand the sales process and I think I see the future of communication, sales interactions and user experience. I know that if your company is not already looking for ways to do the things in this article then you are already behind the 8-ball.

There is a huge shift coming to the retail shopping industry in the near future and this is just a small list of the things that might be on their way. Information will be the new currency and if you are not already looking for creative ways to harness the information that is consumer behavior to enhance your customers experience then you are already too late.


9 replies
  1. Mike Mitchell
    Mike Mitchell says:

    Does anyone remember WebVan? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webvan

    I pondered a similar concept in the early 2000s, but could never close the gap of the hands on experience of selecting quality produce, meats, etc. Packaged and dry goods (as Amazon has shown) are much easier to do this with as they’ve become commoditized. According to my friend in NYC, it is very common to order their groceries online. (EG: https://www.maxdelivery.com) I suspect those services would be more successful in NYC than SRQ because of population density & higher income demographics allowing for more profitable economies of scale.

    I also remember hearing about the coming RFID revolution (over a decade ago) that was going to allow for stores to eliminate checkout counters and auto calculate your cart total…but it has yet to materialize and I doubt it ever will.

    Your idea of adding a gaming component to the experience to tap the creativity of the crowd is very intriguing and never before have we had the technical infrastructure to pull something like that off. Barring global catastrophes, the exponential growth of data and connectedness in the next 10 years will be unprecedented in recorded history.

    In thinking about what’s after what’s next I wonder how 3D printing will play into this industry. I always thought of 3D printing as a good solution for making custom plastic parts but after reading the book “Bold” by Peter Diamandis ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Diamandis ) I have new eyes on its future potential. See “Disrupting Food” for more details… https://peterdiamandis.tumblr.com/post/117525203843/disrupting-food

    Thanks for expanding my mind Raymmar.

  2. Zia
    Zia says:

    I think I’d rather buy things from people, than programs and apps. The joy of knowing and buying an apple thats just ripe enough to eat, to touch and know that the rice is exactly the right texture, to smell and know the flavour of spices.. to know ‘that lady there has the perfect ginger for my curry’. To trust the people I am buying from… grocery shopping is way more than ‘mundane’ to me. :)

    • Raymmar Tirado
      Raymmar Tirado says:

      I’m with you. I am not saying we eliminate farmers markets, fresh produce etc. I am not talking about removing the human element. I am actually talking about enhancing it. I just do not think we are getting rid of the grocery store so it might as well be easier and more engaging.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Dawn Damico
    Dawn Damico says:

    I seem to remember reading that the scanning on the carts is in the works…there may even be some test carts out there somewhere!

    • Raymmar Tirado
      Raymmar Tirado says:

      Yes, I am sure much of this is already in the works. They are definitely playing around with digital carts, RFID tags and more. I was really just thinking outloud. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  4. Jody
    Jody says:

    Back in the days of Mom and Pop grocery stores Mom would call the “market” and they would have her order ready for her. We had only one car and Dad used it everyday for his business except Friday so she packed all the errands into that day since we didn’t live on a bus line.

    • Raymmar
      Raymmar says:

      I don’t think we are far from that being a reality again. I think it will all happen online and I don’t think the grocer will know you by name but there has to be a simplification of the entire shopping process soon. Thanks for reading.


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